According to about.com: In most places in the U.S. a town, village, community, or neighborhood is simply an unincorporated community with no governmental powers. (http://geography.about.com/library/faq/blqzcitytown.htm)
I had to paste that in there because what I know about being in a town versus a city is that we have no mayor, the county sheriffs' department patrols the area and we don't have a city council.
|A view of most of Castro Valley.|
I love my little town. Castro Valley is very nice without being high-falutin'. The Man and I are working class folk. We like that our community is a little quirky. We have a hodgepodge of neighborhoods - some well thought out, a lot "organically grown" throughout the decades. We have young families, senior citizens, and just about everything in between. I love how authentically diverse it is - ethnically, socioeconomically, religiously, sexually, generationally ... you name it, we just about have it. Except for nightlife. We definitely do not have a party scene. Which is perfect for us because we need a family friendly town. I'll be honest, if I was single and in my 20s, San Francisco or thereabouts would definitely be the place for me. But I'm not and I'm not;) For what we want and need, Castro Valley is just about perfect for us.
1. A very good to great school district
2. To live close to my parents
3. A safe community where our kids could enjoy growing up
4. In the Bay Area
5. It to be affordable
I don't feel comfortable saying we had to "sacrifice" anything because, truly, I'm grateful for what we have. So let me just call these slight inconveniences we are happy to deal with:
1. Downsized living arrangements
2. Only 2 good restaurants in town
Not bad, right?
We moved from a stand alone, two-story house to a two-story townhouse-style condominium. Say whaa? I know. Our home looks and feels like a townhouse but it's a condo. What's interesting is that even though it's smaller than our old house, it's a four-bedroom home as opposed to our old three-bedroom house. The layout of our current home is much more efficient with space and, in our eyes, a better design. In our old home, we had a master bedroom that was much larger than the other two bedrooms. Downstairs, we had a living room and a dining room but no bedroom. What drove us crazy is there wasn't even a small closet so there was no place to put coats or things like a vacuum.
While it is annoying to pay more for a smaller space, not to mention we pay a much higher HOA fee, the trade-off is a safer community and a better school district. Due to moving into a smaller space, we're also forced to downsize if we didn't want to feel cluttered. We're still working on it, actually. We have a lot of "stuff" and we continue to work on living a more streamline and simpler lifestyle.
|I took this photo on what I believe is the day we received our keys. That was back in 2013.|
I'm surprised by how much I like my neighborhood. Our dream home is a one-story home where we hardly see our neighbors. The Man would like to live on a farm and do things like till the land. I would like to live in a beach cottage by the sea and shop regularly at a farmer's market. Slightly different goals. (We shall see how it all shakes out when we retire!) So obviously our home is very different than our dream homes. But our neighborhood is one of those that was well thought out when it was created. There are many of us, I think 180+ units, but it is very quiet. I'm thankful we don't live near party animals, reckless or inconsiderate individuals. Most of the residents are families and I think it's safe to assume most of us moved here for the schools. I wish we had larger streets and sidewalks but the grounds are beautifully kept. We also have very good security and watchful neighbors so there is little to no crime. Our HOA is also pretty on top of it. So much so that we had our hands slapped when we updated all our windows to more energy efficient ones the day after our contractor started the project. We were supposed to clear it with HOA first. Oops. But it also illustrated just how much they pay attention. This is very important to us since we had been burglarized at our old home where our HOA supposedly had a security service.
Another perk is that we have great trails and walking areas (thankfully we do have sidewalks outside of my neighborhood) that make for good workouts. We also have a very nice Olympic-sized pool that I like to try to escape to every so often.
About the quality of restaurants: The Man and I were shocked - and I don't write this lightly - how there are very few good restaurants in Castro Valley. There are exactly two that we like enough to frequent. The rest are bad to mediocre, at best. "How is this possible?" we thought. We live in the Bay Area, a food mecca! Well, it may be the large retirement population in the area but, in general, the food is bland. Even the chain restaurants which are usually a safe bet. And it's not just us. Many people we've spoken to have echoed our sentiments. It's inconvenient when we're hungry and not in the mood to go out because all the places that deliver aren't anything we crave. We've tried, believe me, and have been disappointed again and again. But seriously, such a first world problem. Which is why I have to label these two things "small inconveniences" rather than "sacrifices."
There you have it, the town I live in. I don't know if we will stay here once the kids graduate from school because we can't imagine paying these HOA fees once we retire. But for right now and the next 18 years, this is where we plan on staying. I love it here because it's exactly what my family needs - a safe and lovely place to live and grow. I feel absolutely blessed to live in a nice home, in a nice town, near my parents and the village it takes to raise our babies.